Not so long ago people around the world flew freely to different countries to take in new sights and thrills. “Travelling”, we called it.
As far away as it may seem for now, have faith – those jet-setting days will be back eventually. Surely.
For now though, it’s a great chance to plan your next trip/s. Where will you go and what will you see?
Or more accurately, what won’t you see? Mainly because it’s massively overrated and a complete waste of your precious time and hard-earned coin.
Don’t get us wrong – places such as Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon, Sydney Opera House and Victoria Falls are all worth seeing. They’re as impressive as you’d hope them to be.
However there are other famous attractions that suck people in year after year. Lots of travel time and expense to be furiously summed up with, “I came all that way for THIS?!”
But there’s good news. For every let-down is a much better, lesser-known alternative.
Get out your travel planners and a red pen.
First stop is London and best to avoid…
The London Eye (London, UK)
The 135m ferris wheel was built in 1999, making it at the time the world’s tallest. Whatever. The problem with a structure’s only claim to fame being its height is risky because you can guarantee that someone else will immediately build something exactly the same only 5m taller, knocking you off the top spot and into oblivion.
So, the London Eye was the tallest. And now it’s not. And that’s about it.
The brutal reality is that ferris wheels can be a great way to view an area, as long as the area is worth looking at.
Situated on the Thames River, the London Eye affords a view of all the majestic beauty of… er…London. Yes, smoggy, cloudy, grey, ocean-less, mountain-less London.
On a fine day you can see all the way to the McVities biscuit factory in Harlesden.
Better off going to…
The Niagara SkyWheel on the Canadian side gives people a close-up view of the mighty Niagara Falls, spectacular in any weather and at any time of year.
The Cosmo Clock ferris wheel in Yokohama, Japan lets you take in the enormity of the world’s largest urban population of Greater Tokyo and you can see as far as Mt. Fuji on a day ride.
Sorry London, great pubs though.
Now to jump across the English Channel to Paris. We’re off to the Louvre but not necessarily to see…
Mona Lisa (Paris, France)
If you love crowds and selfie sticks, this is the place to be. Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work is viewed by around 10 million soon to be disappointed people a year.
First there’s the size. Get out your school rulers, they’ll do just fine.
A measly 77cm by 55cm.
In peak seasons the Louvre can host up to 30,000 guests at a time with at least 28,000 having absolutely no interest in art whatsoever.
Get the Mona Lisa picture on the phone, then get out. In the heaving throng you’d be lucky to catch even a glimpse without the use of a taser or cattle prod.
And let’s face it – it’s basically a portrait of a woman sitting on a stool.
Better off going to…
You can still lap up Leonardo, just not the Mona Lisa. Pop next door and look at his notebook sketches which include intricate pictures of helicopter-type aircraft and windmills with uncanny similarities to their eventual creations.
While you’re in the Louvre take in some truly breath-taking works. Why not gaze at…
The Intervention of the Sabine Women – a dramatic piece relating to the founding of Rome and of love triumphing over conflict. It evokes comments from everyone who sees it, ranging from “I love the restrained composition” to “Shit, it must have taken ages to finish”.
Plus it’s a whopping 4m by 5m and you should have it all to yourself.
From here you may be tempted to head north to peaceful Denmark. Be warned though, if you plan to see…
The Little Mermaid Statue (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Let’s be clear on one thing – Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific writer and his fairy tales have been cherished from generation to generation across the world.
It wasn’t his fault that a tiny and frankly insulting statue of a mermaid was erected in his honor on a muddy bay in Copenhagen.
The Little Mermaid statue was inspired by one of Andersen’s most famous fairy tales. “Little” is the keyword here too. At 125cm tall, “awe-inspiring” isn’t the first word that comes to mind.
You have to look hard to find it as the faded green/gray mermaid is camouflaged on top of a nondescript faded green/gray rock. When people finally spot it, the most common reaction is “When’s the next bus back to the city?”
Better off going to…
If you simply must see a statue then at least visit one with some scope and impact. That’s the point of statues.
The Motherland Monument in Kiev, Ukraine is a 100m high steel colossus. Yikes. If you’re going to do something, do it properly.
The statue is of a woman who depicts the motherland. She is holding a sword and shield in triumph, after Soviet forces in Kiev were able to repel and defeat Nazi invaders during WW2.
Equally jaw-dropping is the massive 120m tall statue of Buddha in Ibaraki, Japan. The Ushiku Daibutsu statue is 3 times bigger than the Statue of Liberty and you can even enter it to view tiny Buddha statues.
Granted, the location is fairly remote just north of Tokyo. But this is Japan we’re talking about. Jump on an air-conditioned bullet train, crack open a can of sake and you be whisked to Buddha’s welcoming arms in just over an hour.
Time to say goodbye to Europe and get some sun. First stop is San Francisco and don’t be taken in for a ride on the…
San Francisco Cable Car
Tokyo’s subway system is famous for station staff literally squeezing people onto packed trains with poles. And the trains go every 10 minutes.
The thing with this is that these commuters have to get to work or college. They simply must.
If however, you were to visit delightful SanFran then there’s absolutely no need to suffer the same fate.
The San Francisco cable cars operate throughout the city, with tourists favoring the popular Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf routes. Before departure they’re stuffed onto the cable cars like cattle onto a truck. You might be able to make out some of the sights as a stranger breathes his lunch into your face while someone else’s groin is pushed tight against your thigh.
There’s a far simpler and more hygienic way of seeing the same sights.
Walk. Or better yet, rent a bike. Take your time, stop whenever you like and go unmolested for another day.
Better off going to…
Flying far under the radar is Lisbon, Portugal. The Number 28 tram takes you throughout the narrow city streets and you can marvel at the historical city squares, cathedrals and parks along the way. The trams themselves are also relics and perfectly restored– dating back to the 1930s with spacious wooden interiors.
A sensible number of passengers are ushered on, then off you go, finishing in the historical city center. Restaurants and a huge outdoor market await your rumbling stomach.
Winding things up with some fun in the sun. Yes, we’re headed to Australia, a country that has more than its fair share of beaches.
Despite what you’ve heard there’s absolutely no need to go to…
Bondi Beach (Sydney, Australia)
Bondi is Australia’s most famous beach and attracts millions of visitors from around the globe. Aesthetically speaking, it’s not a bad looking beach. White sands, blue waves, plenty of grass areas to lounge around on.
It wasn’t always so popular. Raw sewage was pumped out into the ocean at the northern end, leaving the area with the distinct smell of fresh turds. In the mid-1990s the sewage plant was upgraded to a deep water outfall, meaning number twos were pumped far out, away from susceptible open-mouthed swimmers to open-mouthed fish.
Then Bondi took off.
Unfortunately with fame and glamour comes crowds, plus restaurants and shops charging rip off prices with the “take it or leave it” customer service that only tourist mega-spots can get away with.
It ain’t so great to swim in either. The northern and southern ends are reserved for surfers, leaving the often treacherous mid-sections for water antics. Regular rips and currents can play havoc with inexperienced and often tipsy surf swimmers, meaning Bondi has arguably the world’s hardest-working lifesavers.
Better of going to…
Anywhere else, basically. Sydney alone has around 100 beaches to pick from and then you’ve got the rest of the eastern coastline all the way up through the Sunshine Coast to Cairns. There simply must be one for you, whether it’s to surf, bodysurf or simply relax.
Why stop at Australia? South Africa, California, Thailand, Greece, Brazil and the rest are all worth a visit.
Word of warning – if you see crocodile warning signs in northern Australia, just remember they’re not a novelty for tourists’ amusement. Saltwater crocs are very much indeed in the water, waiting patiently for a foolhardy father to show off to his family for the last time.
Just because hordes of people flock to something doesn’t necessarily guarantee a satisfying experience. Matchbox 20 and Kenny G have sold millions of albums and…well, each to their own.
By all means check out the famous sites – knock yourself out. At least you can say you’ve done it, even if you can’t look someone in the eye when describing how great it was.
Never hurts to have a solid Plan B.